Thursday, August 13, 2015

Being On Time

I have often written about the virtue of punctuality. If you take the time and give yourself the trouble to make it into a good habit, it will improve your mental health, your relationships and will do wonders for the well-being of those near and dear to you. Links here and here and here and here.

When you are punctual you are showing respect for the other person or people. You will be helping to create harmonious interactions. If everyone is on time you will be able to get down to business. If one person is late for the meeting, he will produce drama, distraction and organizational dysfunction.

When you are punctual, all the time, to a fault, you will be practicing a classical virtue.

Writing for Forbes, Brent Beshore makes the same case:

I have a magic pill to sell you. It will help you make more money, be happier, look thinner, and have better relationships. It’s a revolutionary new pharmaceutical product called Late-No-More. Just one dose every day will allow you to show up on time, greatly enhancing your life and the lives of those around you.

All joking aside, being late is unacceptable. While that sounds harsh, it’s the truth and something that should be said more often. I don’t care if you’re attending a dinner party, a conference call, or a coffee meeting – your punctuality says a lot about you.

Think about it: if you show up late for a job interview, what do you think it says to your prospective employer? Dare I say, nothing good.

Note the title of Beshore’s article: “Five minutes early is on time; on time is late; late is unacceptable.”

He means that if punctuality really matters, you do best not to try to show up on time. You should want to show up a little early. Better to be kept waiting than to keep someone waiting.

He also adds that you do well to hand in work on time. Punctuality means meeting deadlines. It does not mean concocting a great excuse for why you are willing to mess up everyone’s scheduling.

Of course, in today’s modern world, punctuality feels like something of a relic. Nothing is easier than to text people to tell them that you are running late. Why do you have the gadget if not to provide you with the opportunity to be rude? It might not cross your mind, but when you show up late you are asserting your own self-importance.

Like yours truly, Beshore finds himself in the minority on the issue:

It seems like most people consider a meeting time or deadline to be merely a mild advisory of something that might happen. I’ve been called uptight and unreasonable, or variations prefaced with expletives. In a world that feels perpetually late, raising the issue of punctuality isn’t a way to win popularity contests and I’m ok with that.

Why do we admire punctuality? What purpose does it serve? How commonly is it practiced?

Beshore answers these questions, adding that punctuality is not just about showing up on time for a meeting. It also involves meeting deadlines:

There’s a reason we set meeting times and deadlines. It allows for a coordination of efforts, minimizes time/effort waste, and helps set expectations. Think of how much would get done if everyone just “chilled out” and “went with the flow?” It would be the definition of inefficiency. It’s probably not that hard to imagine, considering just last week I had 13 (yes, I counted) different people blow meeting times, or miss deadlines. It feels like a raging epidemic, seemingly smoothed over by a barrage of “my bads,” “sorry, mans,” and “you know how it goes.” The desired response is “it’s all good,” but the reality is that it’s not okay.

Continuing, he points out that being late is disrespectful, inconsiderate and discourteous. You cannot demand respect from others if you do not show it to them… at every level of your interaction.

Being late wastes time and money; it undermines any activity that requires good timing. Obviously, as mentioned above, being late signals that you suffer from an advanced case of self-importance, that you are telling people that you are very, very busy and therefore very important.

In truth, Beshore notes, people who are very important are most often on time for appointments. They return messages promptly. They understand the value of time and respect their own and that of other people.


Anonymous said...

Nice to know I'm important. :-)

KCFleming said...

In business, this concept is felt to be untrue for some cultures.

America, Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and Scandinavia are all "monochronic"; that is, "they prefer to do only one thing at a time, to concentrate on it and do it within a fixed schedule" and highly value being on time".

In polychronic cultures, "people tend to handle multiple things concurrently (or intermittently during a time period) and to emphasize the number of completed transactions and the number of people involved, rather than the adherence to time schedule. Being on time is less important in polychronic cultures than in monochronic cultures."

Spaniards, Italians, Brazilians, and Arabs are not very interested in schedules or punctuality. For them, "time is event- or personality-related, a subjective commodity which can be manipulated, molded, stretched, or dispensed with, irrespective of what the clock says."

Nevertheless, those polychronic cultures may be ...wrong; some cultural tendencies are less successful than others in the long run.
There's a reason why those nations do not dominate in business.

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